Johnny Depp’s last two movies (Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows) were panned by the critics, and they really weren’t as bad as everyone said. This movie is doomed for the same fate. It’s got lots of plot holes and flaws in the science fiction, but isn’t as bad as many critics will say. And for all the critics (myself included) that like to complain about clichés in film, how many will write, “The premise isn’t so far out of reach. How often do you go into a restaurant or movie theatre, and see people sitting right next to each other, that would rather text on their phones than talk to the person next to them?”
So this movie becomes a cautionary tale warning us of the dangers of technology, and super intelligent people (and computers) that want to play God. I was just pleasantly surprised that it held my interest, and didn’t go down the paths I thought it would (think HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey). Sure, you might think of better movies with similar things (Her and The East from last year), but the directions it went were fun. It becomes a sort of morbid love story.
The movie may be compared to Inception, although the only similarity is that Christopher Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister is directing this. I guess when you win an Oscar for cinematography, it means you get to direct a film.Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall may not have the best chemistry, but they’re intelligent doctors, and I’m guessing people that smart are probably a tad awkward with each other.
Depp plays Will Caster, the slightly introverted scientist/genius that works with artificial intelligence. His goal is to create a computer with self-awareness and the emotion that human beings possess. There’s a group called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) that wants to stop these guys from “playing God” and they’re not above killing any scientist that gets in their way. As Depp so astutely points out, it’s strange that they’re against this technology because they think it will be bad for humanity, yet they don’t think twice about killing somebody. It’s a statement folks have said about the hardcore abortion protestors that shoot doctors that perform them. The RIFT members (led by Kate Mara, who plays Bree) use the same logic. The directions they go with RIFT and scientist Max (Paul Bettany) were interesting. I had the same feelings I had wall watching The East. I was an audience member developing a form of Stockholm syndrome, and I started to agree with the people keeping us captive.
I’m not going to tell you too much of what happens, because I’m guessing 90% of the reviews out there will have spoilers. I will tell you the things that give nothing away.
Max and Evelyn (Hall) decide to plug into Will’s brain and download all his knowledge. Will is more than happy to do this. I think they should’ve used the same joke they did in the last Captain America, where Scarlett Johansson says, “Want to play a game?” (in reference to the disaster that occurred in War Games)
Everyone will be excited to see that Morgan Freeman is part of the cast (and yes, he does have a scene he narrates). I was more excited to see the always versatile and interesting Clifton Collins Jr., as a local construction worker in a run-down, one-horse town. He starts making a little bit of money and there are interesting, subtle changes to his character. The very same thing can be said about Hall’s character. She has a subtle way of changing throughout the movie that’s just brilliant. It’s a pleasant surprise that it’s not over-the-top.
The score, provided by composer Mychael Danna, didn’t work for me. The pounding percussion style worked well in Inception, but I thought it was a bit much in many of the scenes here.
There are a few characters that remind me of the bad guy in Terminator 2 and the Chuck Norris/Ron Silver movie Silent Rage (which I loved when I saw it, but then…I was 13-years-old in 1982 when it came out).
The filmmakers behind Transcendence think they’re giving us profound statements with this vehicle, and they’re really not. It’s just an engaging, fun, sci-fi thriller that’s not a bad way to spend two hours.
It didn’t get too preachy and it was thought-provoking. It gets 3 stars out of 5.